OSWEGO, N.Y. — The top two teams in the SUNYAC squared off in Oswego, and it had all the makings of a playoff game. Oswego scored two third period goals in ten seconds and then clung on for a 4-3 victory over Geneseo. The win gives the Lakers a four-point cushion in first place.
In front of a full crowd at the Campus Center Ice Arena, the two teams put on a fast paced, ferocious hitting contest.
“The bodies were flying,” Oswego forward Brendan McLaughlin said. “I think everybody wanted first place, so we came out banging. Guys who usually don’t throw checks were throwing checks. Everybody on our team was just flying and hitting.”
“It was physical,” Oswego captain Ryan Woodward said. “It definitely felt like a playoff game out there. Both teams came out ready to play. We were throwing the bodies around. It was a hard fought game.”
The key moments in the game came at 3:50 and 4:00 of the third period with the game deadlocked at two apiece.
After what appeared to have been a goal when the puck hit off the crossbar and post, McLaughlin kept working during the ensuing scramble and finally knocked it in.
“Probably since I was five years old I heard every coach say just go until the puck was in the net,” McLaughlin said. “I didn’t know if it was in or not, so I kept crashing. It went in finally.”
With the crowd still on its feet celebrating the goal, Oswego brought the puck down off the faceoff and immediately scored again. Matt Whitehead got the goal catching the Geneseo defenders unprepared.
“You can’t give Oswego a two-goal lead and expect to come back on them,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said.
The Ice Knights did battle back, but the damage had been done. At 11:41, Trent Cassan shot from an impossible angle along the goal line to the right of the net. Somehow, the puck squeezed between Ryan Scott’s leg and the post. Despite getting two powerplays near the end of the game, Geneseo wasn’t able to tie the game thanks mainly to passing up some great shooting opportunities.
“If there is anything we could change, we wanted to get more shots on net,” Schultz said. Geneseo was out shot, 33-19.
The first two periods played out in identical bookend fashion — Geneseo scored an early goal while Oswego netted one in the last minute.
Geneseo opened the scoring on the first powerplay of the game at 2:34 in perhaps the most perfect display of passing. With quick cross-ice one-time passes placed right on the stick, Oswego stood no chance defending. After receiving a pass at the left point, Brett Bestwick one-timed it to Chris Kestell at the right faceoff circle who just as quickly one-timed it to the left faceoff circle. There, Cassan one-timed it past a dizzy Scott.
“Their powerplay was very good on the first shift and we weren’t ready for it,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said.
Oswego gained a big momentum lift when they were able to tie the game 2.3 seconds before the period ended. McLaughlin, who got a point on all six goals the night before, raced down the right side, took a full windup, and fired a slapshot. Though Derek Jokic got a piece of it, it had enough power to get through him and into the net.
McLaughlin said, “I could hear everyone from the bench saying shoot it. I just put everything I had in it.”
The second period played out the same way. Geneseo scored early and Oswego got it back in the last minute. In between, there was a near brawl.
At 1:53, Casey Blog scored unassisted thanks to some old fashioned digging. He outmuscled Oswego defenders to pull the puck out of the corner, skated to the high slot area untouched, and put a wrist shot on net. Scott had trouble finding it through the screen, and it found its way in.
“He made a nice play,” Gosek said. “He rolled out of the corner, and our guy didn’t stay with him.”
Oswego tied it back up with 57.1 seconds left in the period. The Lakers crashing the net finally paid off as Woodward knocked it in.
“Early on we tried to take the energy out of the building,” Schultz said. “We tried to play physical. When you build two consecutive one-goal leads and then give those late period goals up, that’s going to hurt your hockey team.”
Halfway through the second period, there was a near brawl as three players from each side squared off in a wrestling match, and though some punches were thrown, the referees opted not to issue any fighting majors. Instead, five roughing minors were handed out along with a 10-minute misconduct.
Scott made 16 saves for the win while Jokic stopped 29 shots in the losing effort.
Neither team left anything out on the ice and the fans got more than their money’s worth in this playoff-like atmosphere.
“I think everybody expelled all the energy they had,” McLaughlin said.
“It was a great college hockey game,” Gosek said.
Both teams will have a whole week to mend.
Oswego who is now 16-1-3 overall and unbeaten in league play at 7-0-2 travels to Fredonia on Friday.
Geneseo brings their 12-8-0 record (6-3-0 in conference) northward as they play Potsdam.